Chef Monica Pope writes about eating & cooking where your food lives

Spicy. Sticky. Sweet. September 22, 2010

Green Plum Cooking School – Saturday, August 28th

Today, I’m doing a spicy red chili preserve, even though I don’t have all the ingredients…does that really surprise anyone at this point?  I decide to have Benjy roast the peppers in the kitchen so we don’t have to do them in small batches (and because food just happens back there!).

I’m not sure where they are but my usual hecklers are not in the audience today.   Maybe they know we’ve moved class outside to the patio and think it’s too hot.  Everyone is sooooo quiet.  My friend Nicole is helping her husband, Tommy, sell his photo t-shirts at his vendor table in the parking lot; I holler over the fence if she can heckle me from out there, but she can’t hear me.  A voice comes through the plants on the patio; it’s Miss Priss saying, “You mean me?”  I say “No, it’s just not the same,” but then realize she could heckle me just fine.  This could work!

A whole peck of peppers...

I’ve chosen this preserve today because Hans with Twin Persimmons Farm has lots of sweet, medium hot and very spicy peppers and because, even though it has a kick, it is also very sweet and sour with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.  I convince myself it’s OK that I don’t have brown sugar.  Instead, I am using my good customers’ Mike and Sonya’s gift of pure maple syrup from Wisconsin; this maple syrup is delicious:  smoky, sweet, deep.  It’s like drinking a well-aged brandy.

I have chosen ten small Hungarian wax bell peppers, four Joe Parker Anaheim peppers, two cayenne peppers and two jalapeno peppers to kick it.  We roast, seed and peel all the peppers.  After roasting, remember to never, ever, rinse these peppers under water.  You don’t want to wash away the good char and flavor.  After you char a pepper, you then place it in a bowl, cover it and let it steam for about 10 minutes, then scrape the skin off with the seeds.

While I do this, Lisa Googles the difference between jams, jellies, preserves, marmalades, chutneys and relishes.  It seems way too complicated, but what I remember (I think) is that they all involve sugar, except relishes, and some — like chutneys and preserves — have vinegar and some have spices.  There are other differences, like some have whole fruit verses chopped.  In the preserve that I am making today, I am adding a cinnamon stick, bay leaves, minced red onion and rosemary so we end up with a sweet, yet savory, sticky, spicy concoction.

Glen Boudreaux of Jolie Vue Farms shows up right as my sun spotlight shines on me.  I feel like I’m under a huge magnifying glass.  I didn’t realize it, but Glen was on his cell phone.  I had to tell him he was in a cell-free zone.  Glen was on his way to his 45th high school reunion!  His was only the third class to graduate from Strake Jesuit.

From the bushes I hear, “Are you still cooking?”  That’s Miss Priss trying to heckle me.  But, no, I’m not still cooking.  But I’m still talking with Glen.  We’re talking about Brooklyn.  All of Glen’s kids live in Brooklyn now; it turns out we’ll all be in NYC at the same time next month.  We make plans to “do” B-town together.  I’ll make sure to tweet about all the goodies I eat; there’s quite a revival going on in Brooklyn of the old culinary arts—butchering, pickling, baking.

I get back to cooking.  I’m sautéing the red onions until they are meltingly tender, and I try not to caramelize them.  Then I add my maple syrup, herbs, spices and peppers and cook it down until it’s syrupy.

I pull out the Pure Luck basket chevre and Lisa spreads it on ciabatta; we top that off with the spicy-sticky-sweet pepper concoction.  I realize that my face is burning red, but I’m not sure if it’s the chilies or the sun.

NOTE: The recipes used in my Green Plum Cooking School classes can be found in my online cookbook, “Eat Where Your Food Lives,” available for purchase at


One Response to “Spicy. Sticky. Sweet.”

  1. calpreece Says:

    Monica, can’t tell you how much your Green Plum cooking school blogs mean to me here in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in Central Asia. I really miss coming to the Mid-Town Farmer’s Market each Saturday morning, and the classes. I have found a substitute here in Bishkek. About three blocks from my apartment local farmers and growers set up on the sidewalk each day. So far I have purchased raspberries, pears, apples that are mostly raised in people’s backyards and small gardens. It is relatively easy to by a locavore in Bishkek. Miss you and the hecklers though on Saturday mornings.

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